° empty

Middle school, high school teachers get dire warning about possible takeover

NATCHEZ — Employees of Morgantown Middle School and Natchez High School were told this week they could be terminated if the schools receive another “F” rating in September.

Natchez-Adams School District Frederick Hill said he met with teachers and staff of both schools Monday and Tuesday per a requirement of the Mississippi Department of Education to inform the schools’ personnel they would be terminated if accountability ratings don’t improve.

Hill traveled to Jackson Oct. 9 to meet with Interim State Superintendent of Education Lynn House, State Superintendent of Education designee Carey Wright and other MDE officials.

State legislation passed in 2010 requires MDE to administer the New Start School Program for schools that are failing for three consecutive years, beginning with the results from the 2009-2010 school year.

The law states that all licensed and non-licensed employees in those particular schools be given notice they will be terminated if the school receives an “F” rating for the third consecutive year.

Morgantown and NHS, Hill said, have been failing for two years according to the current accountability model and will be at risk for state takeover if they fail again next year.

“I emphasized that these are the consequences of the law — if we are to fail for three consecutive years, all of the staff will be terminated,” Hill said. “My message (to the staff) was two things: first that this is the law and we are obligated to follow the law and the next one, that something should be done if a school is failing for three years.”

The state accountability model is based on three factors — test score performance, graduation rates and a growth target measuring the improvements students make on state tests.

The district, as a whole, did not show enough growth to lift it out of the failing category.

Rules and regulations determining the transformation of a failing school into a New Start School, such as the rehiring of those employees who were fired, will be determined by the State Board of Education, the law states.

Hill said, however, he and other district personnel will not sit and wait for the state to takeover those schools.

“We have to focus on this year and be proactive on our end,” Hill said. “We don’t have to wait until the state decides to turn around our schools.”

Students in grades three through 12 are administered benchmark assessments throughout the year as a predictor of how they will perform on the Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 and Subject Area Testing Program state tests.

A benchmark assessment issued in March resulted in the same scores the students ultimately achieved on the actual state test.

“Based on those assessments we give every nine weeks, we can see exactly what we need to work on and work to improve those things now,” Hill said. “Those assessments were right on point last year, so they’re a good predictor of how the students will do.”

Hill said students just completed the first round of benchmark assessments, and district personnel are waiting for results.

NASD Board of Trustee President Wayne Barnett said board members were briefed after the superintendent’s meeting in Jackson.

Barnett said he feels confident the district can make the appropriate changes this year to stop a potential state takeover when accountability results are released in September.

“I was disappointed last year, but I really wasn’t surprised,” Barnett said. “We hadn’t had an opportunity to put the things in motion we needed to put through, but now we have.

“The school district has been doing a lot of things differently, and I think that’s going to show up in scores this year.”